Exempla: Gordon in Orvieto Anniversary Exhibit
Twenty years ago I went to Orvieto for the first time. I was there to study on the first pilot semester for the Gordon-College-in-Orvieto program. In Orvieto I met silence, beauty, and history. I encountered the Eucharist, the Virgin Mary, and my vocation as an artist.I have tried to capture the power of this encounter in this monotype entitled “Incontro/Encounter”, now on exhibit at the Gallery at Barrington Center for the Arts at Gordon College.
Twenty years of alumni of the innovative Gordon-College-in-Italy study abroad program contributed to the group show “EXEMPLA”. The gallery show is part of an entire weekend of events. Events include a reunion of program participants as well as talks and visits from the current director Matthew Doll and the program’s Italian liaison and Artistic Director of the Festival d’Arte Fede e Storia, Alessandro Lardani.
I was involved as either student or staff for every semester of the Gordon-in-Orvieto program from 1998-2003. I played an instrumental part in developing relationships in the community, with the sisters of the Company of Mary our Lady who hosted us, and with the professors and administrators of Gordon College. In that role in Orvieto as Program Coordinator, I felt the fullness of who God created me to be.
While working in Orvieto, I was able to use my unique combination of gifts: my ability to acquire foreign languages, my love for art and history, my thirst for new experiences, my passion for beauty, or my humble skills in organization. Whether large or small everything I did was working to the purpose of serving young Christian artists and empowering a re-birth of beauty in the church universal (Protestant and Catholic). I interacted with American Evangelical college students, Catholic nuns, art professors, and Italian members of the community. In the process, all of my “inter-disciplinary” interests in painting, theology, culture, language flowed seamlessly one into another every day in a building filled with the residue of centuries or prayer.
I left Orvieto in 2003 to be able to focus more intently on art creation through graduate studies. My time in Italy seeped out through my work, as I labored to express the beauty and yearning and connectedness I had felt there through the medium of painting. The themes, concepts, and imagery of my work continue to be drawn directly from my experience of Renaissance art and Italian life.
In Orvieto I met silence, beauty, and history.
Those years in Orvieto planted many seeds, not only for my art but also for my faith and for my personal life. The relationships I formed there continue to be among the most influential in my life. During the two-and-a-half years I was working there full-time I often felt lonely as groups of students came, we lived together intensely, and they they left again. But when I returned to the US I found that many of those 120+ students I had worked with had settled around Boston, and I had a ready-made group of Christian artists with whom to fellowship for those years.
In 2017 I had the opportunity to return to Orvieto. For 10 years of my adult life (1997-2006) I had had the blessing to return to Orvieto every year, but in 2017 it had been eight years since I had been there. What had been a recent college grad’s vision of a life full of potential became clouded with financial and artistic survival. Life changes such as debt, babies, moving: all had added up to a period much too long away from the place I call my spiritual home.
Twenty years from my first sojourn in Orvieto and some seeds planted then have begun to sprout again.
In those eight years away I had become resigned, or even forgotten, about some parts of myself which weren’t being utilized, though the relationships and my feeling of wholeness I experienced there remained.
Twenty years out from my first sojourn in Orvieto and some seeds planted then have begun to sprout again. In this last year opportunities have surfaced which have re-kindled that sense of integrated connectedness. I am teaching again, after a hiatus of several years. I am participating in a new movement of Catholic Creatives. In these two things I am seeing the strengths and themes re-surface which had been buried for a time while I was teaching at secular schools and raising my young children.
I am grateful to Gordon College and the gallery there for putting together this beautiful exhibit to celebrate the place which was so formative in my life and that of so many others.
Italy Photography courtesy of Seth Paine
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